Short Story Page


written April 2005

by don the story teller

In his latest incarnation Harold was born into Cloudland. Experimenting, as infants tend to do, he discovered that he could project clouds of infinite variety, almost continuously - enormous, tiny, fluffy, crumbly, crinkly, crumbly, crooked, crashing, or even crazy Clouds. They came in all shapes and forms. Some of these clouds seemed so real that Harold would reach out for them - but they would always fade away - evaporating without a trace before his hungry grasp. But as a child he would always project some more Clouds once these had disappeared.

As he grew older and began passing from Childhood to Young Adulthood he began trying to make sense of the Rules to this new Game he was playing, as Adolescents tend to do. This is when the Indoctrination began from the Adult world, as it tends to do.

‘Put away your Toys - Leave your unreal Clouds behind - And Join the serious hardworking world of the Hive - Then you can reap all the Rewards of materialism - and all the joys this entails’. This was the general gist of the Propaganda. As an earnest young Cloudling he embraced the directives with religious fervor of a True Believer.

It was easy to put away his Toys, but his Clouds were another matter. He desperately attempted to eradicate, exterminate, eliminate, erase, and obliterate these childish Clouds to concentrate on more important things - the serious matters of adulthood. He became angry at times - frustrated at others, because the Clouds kept up their spontaneous tricks no matter what he did. But then gradually, and ever so surely, he stopped seeing so many Clouds. Indeed these beautiful Clouds which had so entranced him in his childhood began to fade away - almost disappearing completely as he joined the Hive of the Adult World with all the Rewards of materialism and the joys this entailed.

The same process occurred in a similar fashion to nearly all the Cloudlings he had grown up with, especially the ambitious ones who wanted to join the Hive - those who were after all the benefits this entailed. Of course this group included our friend, Harold. He and his friends began naturally associating clouds with the younger children, the Cloudlets, as they were called. But what replaced these clouds that were infinite in variety? Just an empty blue expanse - which depending on one’s mood might even be perceived as a dreary overcast gloom.

“That’s just the way it is,” the older Cloudlings would tell him. “As you grow up you lose your ability to project clouds. Only Cloudlets have Clouds. It’s just for kids.”

Harold: “But I liked my Clouds.”

“Don’t be so childish. Put away your toys. Time to grow up,” they would respond.

And Harold sighed, pulled up his pants and went to work on another cloudless, and what seemed to him to be a, gray day.

“Something’s not right,” Harold thought. “Day - Night - Day - Night. The monotony is driving me crazy. What’s there to look forward to but another Day and Night?”

“But Harold,” Samantha said, “Look at the beautiful clear sky with the warm rays of the Sun beating down. Doesn’t that make you happy. Most don’t have it as good as we do. You’re lucky. You should be grateful, not depressed. You’re a respected member of the Hive with everything to look forward to.”

Harold looked up and only saw gray. The broad expanse of sky didn’t excite him or fill him with a sense of exhilaration or excitement. Instead it filled him with a sense of dread, nausea, and excruciating boredom.

“Sometimes I think I’d rather try another incarnation - than face one more day filled with a Cloudless sky - whether it be blue, gray, green, brown, or red. I miss my Clouds. I wonder where they went. Where did they go?”

“Childish fantasies, “ Samantha replied.

“Still trying to hold onto your youth,” Mathilda chimed in.

“But these cloudless skies, marked by days without definition, are beginning to blend one into the other. To be honest it’s getting hard for me to tell one from the next. It’s wearing me down.” moaned Harold.

Samantha: “I do it for our kids.”

“Yes, for our kids,” echoed Mathilda.

Harold groaned.

Samantha: “I love my little rascals. My Life is constantly brightened by joining my darling Cloudlets in their little Cloud games. I’m constantly amazed by the endless intricacies of their vision. And I must also admit that in the wonder of our Games, I sometimes even generate a Cloud or two of my own. But please don’t tell anyone. I’m just playing Mom.”

Mathilda: “Me too.”

Samantha: “Everyone should have Cloudlets. That’s the Key to happiness.

Mathilda: “I agree.”

Harold moaned pitifully.

Samantha: “What’s the matter?”

Mathilda: “Are you sick or something?”

“Just filled with emptiness and nausea,” Harold intoned mournfully.

Mathilda: “Probably something you ate.”

Samantha: “What you need Harold is a wife and kids to give you purpose and meaning to your life. Then you could brighten your day by playing Cloud games with your kids.”

Mathilda: “It works for me. I join in their darling Cloudlet games whenever I can.”

Harold groaned again: “I don’t mean to be a cynic or a downer, but these family games don’t do it for me. I’m more of a loner. It just seems that there must be more. There seems to be something missing, but I just don’t know what it is.”

Samantha: “Remember family does it for me.”

Mathilda: “Me too.”

“Not me,” responded Harold, as he pulled up his pants to go to work on one more Cloudless day. “It just doesn’t make any sense. Why am I here? What’s it all about? Are we just here to reproduce ourselves? Or is there something more. There must be. I can sense it.”

Agitated and restless, he couldn’t sit still. Instead of following his safe, secure, dependable daily routine, he began wandering aimlessly around Cloudland. At first there was nothing. He didn’t even really know what he was searching for. But then as his wandering expanded into the less respectable parts of town, he began to notice some odd wisps of smoke dissolving into the uniform blue sky. At first he paid it no mind because he was so distracted by his inner turmoil.

“Besides it’s coming from the wrong part of town,” he thought to himself.

But then, as the days of wandering turned into weeks and then months, his inner craving began drawing him towards these curlicue wisps - as a moth towards a flame - as a dog sniffing it s prey. But he still resisted his urge to investigate. Finally his curiosity surpassed his fear of the unknown. Employing ancient instincts to lead him to the Source he finally ventured off the Cliff of the Known into this very odd part of Cloudland - called the Downs by the respectable Cloudlings of Uptown, where Harold lived.

Perplexed and confused by what he saw, it took him awhile to reorient. Accustomed to sameness everywhere, he was initially offended by the diversity of expression. He hadn’t realized that where he lived in the respectable part of town that everyone dressed the same, had the same hair styles, drove the same cars, behaved similarly, and even seemed to believe the same way - going to war with each other over seemingly inconsequential issues. Harold could never quite figure out what the fuss was all about. Further and more importantly these Cloudling, respectable members of the Hive that they were, seemed to find a deep satisfaction in their Cloudless world - where everyone belonged to the same Homogenous Group.

But not Harold. The sameness left him dissatisfied - giving him indigestion. Not that he was some kind of radical or intellectual. He just had never wanted to form a relation or have kids. He had never quite fit in. He had always been an Outsider. Some said it came from a childhood illness, others genetic, and yet “I think it was his upbringing. After all there were some Artists in his family.” Harold had never really felt that he had come from an artistic family because both his parents had settled into the regularity of the Hive before he even began school.

But whatever the reasons for his inability to fit into the Mold Harold’s psyche was jarred and startled by the diversity of expression that he discovered on the other side of Town. At first he just wandered the streets and returned quickly home to the safety of sameness. But then as he became more familiar and comfortable he began staying longer and exploring more. Except for their clothes, houses and their endless variety of expression, the inhabitants of the Downs seemed to be much the same as the residents of Uptown where the Hive was located.

But from each of these unusual domains wisps of smoke continued to emerge. Finally he couldn’t bear it any longer. Like a ninja warrior he crept up to inspect one of these houses - even though this was not a respectable thing to do - especially coming from Uptown, as Harold did. And what did he see? Cloudlings busily chipping away at Clouds. Dazed and confused he stumbled back to the security of his home and the Hive. It was more difficult than usual to face the day - Pulling on his pants - going to work on yet another cloudless morning.

But he couldn’t stay away. Creeping back and peeping in he saw the same in house after curious house. Cloudlings busily chipping away.

“I wonder what is going on?” - “Maybe I should ask.” - “But that would be highly inappropriate.” - “But I really want to know.” - “Entirely irregular.” His adult tapes, implanted in his youth, argued back and forth with his innate curiosity. Finally his curiosity got the better of his sense of propriety. He ambled casually up to one of these unusual looking abodes and knocked on the door - quite a few times in fact before he could rouse the busy chippers from their labors.

Finally a chipper emerged - looking more than a little irritated that he had been disturbed - interrupted from his work.

“Yes,” the Chipper asserted insolently “What do you want?”

“Even though I’m from a higher class and deserve to be treated with more respect, I’ll overlook his rudeness in the pursuit of meaning,” Harold thought to himself.

Out loud: “I just wondered what you were doing so busily down there?”

Suspiciously: “Who might you be?”

“I’m just Harold. I come from Uptown.”

“Am I supposed to be impressed?”

“No, not at all.”

“Well, what do you want then? I’m just a Chipper. As you can obviously see I live in what you call the Downs. Are you one of them investigators?”

“No, no. I’m just desperately curious.”

“What about?”

“I’m dying to know what you’re doing.”

“Why’s that?”

“It just seems so interesting.”

“Listen. If you don’t bother us with our Art we won’t bother you with your Money. Now go away and leave us alone. I’m busy.”

As the Chipper is about to shut the Door.

“No, no, Please. My life has lost meaning and I’m just wandering aimlessly. I mean no harm. Really I don’t. Please take me in and show me what you’re doing.”

The Chipper to himself: “Hmmm? Can’t really turn down an honest cry for help. Well all right. If I must, I must.” Grudgingly to Harold: “So what do you want to know?”

Harold: “You seem to have so much vitality - so much meaning to your lives and I feel so meaningless. I see you here busily chipping away at your clouds. You have such a sense of purpose. What am I missing? I’m frantic to learn what your secret is.”

Chipper: “No secret. It’s very simple actually. But how do I know you’re not one of them damn investigators?”

Harold: “I’m too stupid for that. But what’s wrong with these investigators, as you call them?”

Chipper: “They come nosing around, acting all interested, when they are just trying to convert us into workers for the Hive - tempting us with the supposed joys of materialism - But they just end up wasting our precious time with their babble. Are you sure you’re not an investigator?”

“Positive. I truly come with an open and willing Mind. I’m ready to be trained. I’ve been wandering and seeking for years. Sensing and sniffing - catching glimpses but not really seeing - a illusive whiff of something from the past that I can’t really identify, but seems to hold the Secret - a scent of something that seems really important but I don’t know what it is - hearing a suggestion without really understanding - listening to something that seems to make sense but only experiencing noise with no meaning. Please, please, please I’m desperate.”

“Well all right then. You seem to be genuine enough.”

“So tell me, what’s the secret?”

“I told you already. No secret. Just don’t let go. And don’t give up because of frustration. The secret is so simple that it’s not a secret. Most let their Clouds disappear as they get older, while those of us who live in the Lows never let go of our Clouds.”

“I think I’m getting it. Clouds are like dreams. You’re just saying that the Key is continue pursuing your dreams and not let go.”

Suspiciously: “What kind of dreams are you thinking of?”

“The normal dreams of the Hive, of course. Owning your own home, having a family, buying a new car, going on a European vacation, and enjoying a lifetime of security.”

“No - No - No. Seems as if you’ve been too heavily infected. I can see that it’s going to be too difficult to eradicate their Cancer of the Bleak. It seems to have spread too far. See you later. Back to my chipping.”

“No,” Harold cried from the depths of his Soul. “Wait a minute. You can’t shut me out. I desperately need some help.”

“Well, one thing you must realize is that Clouds and Dreams, while seemingly similar, are very different. Dreams, as far as we Lows are concerned anyway, are based in the Bleak and lead back to the Bleak - while Clouds are based in the Awesome Void of Direct Experience. The Conscious easily conjures up Dreams, but is helpless before Clouds. They only emerge unbidden from the Void. And when they do, don’t let them go for they are the Life line to meaning and purpose - retrieving you from the Bleak swamp that most are trapped in. Now if you don’t mind I must get back to my work. It’s really all there is.”

“But wait!” pleaded Harold. “You haven’t told me how you retained your Clouds as you passed through the Desert of Adolescence after the Garden of Childhood. That’s when I lost my Clouds. And I’m tortured to know how I can find my Cloud again.”

“As we Lows matured we chose certain Clouds and let the rest go.”

“You chose a Cloud? But how did you do this?”

“Just focus your attentions on the Clouds that really fascinate you the most. Then gradually, slowly bring it into Reality. That’s where most lose out. They get caught in the Rush. It’s not easy to maintain attention that long. But it’s the only way to avoid the Cloudless Sky Syndrome.”

“But how is it possible to avoid the Rush? After all the Rush leads to all the best things in life.”

“Such as?”

“Stock portfolios - investments - real estate - life insurance - pensions - and promotions, which lead to all the great things that money can buy such as new cars, delicious food, nice vacations, and, of course, security?”

“Security. Bah.” Spitting disgustedly on the floor. “Just as I thought, too corrupted by the Hive. I’m obviously wasting my time. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m back to my chipping.”

“No - No. I’m just trying to learn. I didn’t mean to offend you. I’m awfully sorry. Please help me or I will surely drown in the sea of Emptiness.”

“If the Cloudless Sky turns you on, go for it. But for those of us down here in the Lows; our Clouds are the only way - else we become morose and depressed - even suicidal at times.”

“Lost and ill at ease. I know the feeling well. Many seem to find great satisfaction in the Empty Sky, but I’m floundering. What shall I do to regain my lost Clouds?”

“Even those committed to the Empty Sky generate a few wisps. But thoughts immediately dissolve them with a quick dose of what they call Reality, but which we call the Bleak.”

“The Bleak?! But that’s been my whole life.”

“Precisely. That’s why we hold onto our Clouds and keep chipping away, turning them into our Reality. The Only Way, as far we’re concerned.”

“Chipping away? How can you chip away at Clouds? They are too insubstantial to even touch.”

“This is what those who live in the Bleak think. But the truth is otherwise. In fact that’s the difference between youth and maturity. In childhood the Clouds are generated naturally and in abundance - sometimes even a little too profusely - making it hard to focus. But as we get older we must stick to the Clouds that fascinate us the most - not getting distracted by passing Clouds - else the Cloudless Sky becomes our Reality.”

“But I still ask, how can you chip away at a Cloud?”

“No one really knows for sure. All we know is from experience. With enough concentration - no distractions - especially from the Bleak Reality of the Cloudless Sky - that our Clouds begin to be transformed into Rock.”


“Exactly. But it takes a lot of patience and persistence. It doesn’t happen overnight.”

“Wow! A Rock.”

“It’s the most satisfying thing that we from the Lows can do with our Lives. But beware. If the Cloud chipping stops before it’s finished - the transformation from Cloud to Rock is reversed - the partial Rock reverts to its insubstantiality. That’s why we are so busy chipping away at our Clouds. Its the only Reality for us down here in the Lows. The Bleak leaves us dissatisfied and suicidal - morose and depressed.”

“Wow! Thank you. I had no Idea.”

“Most don’t - Too indoctrinated by the false Reality of the Cloudless Sky - the Bleak. Well enough of this idle chatter - Back to my Cloud chipping. Getting older, you know. So many Clouds to turn into Rocks with not that much time left. And if you’re truly one of us - you’d better get busy with yours. It won’t be easy. You’ve lost a lot of time in the Bleak. But it’s never too late to follow your Cloud. After all one of yours led you here.”

The End